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Elixir For Food

Sarah Tierney tries the pies and the potions at this new bar on Deansgate

Published on January 8th 2014.


Elixir For Food
 

ACROSS the road from John Rylands Library, not quite as grand but just as surprising when you see it for the first time, is new bar Elixir Treats and Tonics.

It's hidden away in that set-back, covered row of shops that includes a bookies and a fried chicken takeaway. Standing amongst them there's now a heavy oak door that looks about two hundred years old but has in fact only been there around two weeks.

It hints that something mysterious and magical might be happening behind it. Step inside and you start to believe it actually is. The air is scented with incense oil, church candles flicker in corners and the back bar looks as though belongs in the potions lab at Hogwarts.

The Red Meat PlatterThe Red Meat Platter

 

Elixir is the new project from Escapade, a bar consultancy that shaped some of Manchester's sharpest new openings (Neighbourhood, Vega Lounge, Southern Eleven).

Owner Dan Purnell learned his trade at the world's only seven star hotel, the Burj Al Arab in Dubai, and has a sideline in organising A-list parties and events.

The attention to detail and quality of ingredients in these platters wasn't reflected in the price of a fiver a head

Given this background, perhaps it shouldn't have been a surprise that he's created an inviting, intimate, gorgeous little drinking den in such an initially unpromising space and location. In a similar vein, I wasn’t quite expecting the food to be what it was.

In my defence, the menu prices gave nothing away; it's £4.50 for a sandwich with side salad, and £9.95 for a sharing platter for two. For that I was expecting freezer-to-microwave tapas assembled by a pot wash in a side kitchen. What we got was home-made, fresh and mostly cooked from scratch by a very competent chef who ought to be a lot busier than he was. This was their opening week and we were the only ones eating lunch.

The White Meat PlatterThe White Meat Platter

 

We tried three of the sharing platters: The Best of British, The Red Meat and The White Meat. The first, Best of British, included two dinky home-made beef and ale pies with crumbly pastry and chunks of juicy steak. Also made in-house is the accompanying Manchester Egg and there's talk of the chef baking the bread for the mini bacon butties in the future.

This is a man who doesn't believe in short-cuts. He also handmade the Cajun chips that came with the Red Meat platter: crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside, just right. They were accompanied by two tender mini beef burgers with tangy cheese and bacon, two substantial lamb koftas and two chilli dogs in super-soft white bread buns.

The White Meat platter was another success. The mini fish was fresh that day – falling into flakes when you bit through the delicate batter. It came with more home-made chips, lemon chicken skewers, prawn tempura, a rocket and parmesan salad, and mini pittas.

The attention to detail and quality of ingredients in these platters wasn't reflected in the price of a fiver a head. And that's before you take into account the 'treat' on the side; all the platters come with a small chalice of matched wine, or in the case of the Best of British, a shot of chocolate porter beer. The idea is that you get the taste without the tipsiness, so you can return to work clear-headed.

Cheese BoardCheese Board

 

We also tried some of their cocktails, which could easily have wiped out the whole afternoon. Taking a civilised sip of each we decided there and then that these deserved an article in their own right. Watch this space.

The food menu is served 12 - 7pm. Excellent after-work eats as well as lunch time treats.

Also, Elixir needs to make itself more conspicuous to passers-by. That big gothic door is lovely but if it's not left a-jar, you'd be forgiven for thinking you need a massive ancient key or a magic password to get inside.

Before we left, the bar man Andrew noticed us studying the last page of the drinks menu, which advertises healing gem waters and crystal elixirs on offer for free. He's a qualified crystal healer, like Mystic Meg, and makes them fresh each morning for customers in need of holistic healing, or those with a hangover. Beats hair of the dog. That’s never worked.

Andrew's potions weren't part of the original plan for the bar; it was just a spooky coincidence (synchronicity, even) that a maker of elixirs got a job in a bar called Elixir. Like the home-made food and the art by manager Gary (who moved here after eight years at Panacea), the quirky stuff happening behind the bar created the sense that Elixir isn't a slick, marketing-led operation but a place with real character.

To me it felt like a true independent powered along by a team with personality who want to make you feel at home. The kind of bar you might want to adopt as a regular hangout, whether you're going for the food, the cocktails, or even the rose quartz gem water. Go and check it out - it deserves to do well.

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